Zidane's Real Madrid plan: evolution, not revolution
The Frenchman is not looking for a complete overhaul this summer, just a tweak in every line with Bale, Isco and Varane the key incognitos.
Zinedine Zidane has already started his plans for next season and the Real Madrid boss is considering more of a considered overhaul than a complete tearing up of the 2018-19 script, despite being linked with a host of players since he swept back into the Bernabéu.
The Frenchman believes that the majority of the squad – who he led to three consecutive Champions League titles – are still fit for purpose but will make a few changes with some players agitating for a move or being eyed up to swell the coffers to fund a few new faces.
Florentino Pérez had already made his first move before Zidane’s return was confirmed, snapping up Éder Militao from Porto for a fee of 50 million euros. However, it remains to be seen what role the Brazilian will be required to play next season with Raphaël Varane considering his future at the Bernabéu. The France international, 25, has a contract until June 2022 and a minimum release clause of 500 million euros. Even if he asks to leave and Real facilitate his exit, possibly to Manchester United, it will require a world record fee for a defender to get Pérez to as much as pick up his phone, and probably a bid in excess of 100 million euros for a presidential eyebrow to be raised.
Marcelo also remains an unknown; links to Juventus refuse to go away and although Zidane is a firm admirer of the Brazilian, the form of Sergio Reguilón cannot be ignored and the 30-year-old may also feel this is his last chance to taste life in a different league.
Midfield is the area where Zidane is likely to have most of his work cut out. Mateo Kovacic, who left a bitter taste in the mouth of the board when he moved to Chelsea on loan and has expressed his desire to remain at Stamford Bridge, which is likely to be granted happily by Madrid. Zidane was never a fan of Marcos Llorente and Casemiro’s form has been below his usual standard this season, which is why Madrid have expressed their interest in Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombélé. Paul Pogba will be linked with a move to Madrid ad infinitum now that Zidane is back in the dugout but a move for the France midfielder may prove too costly for Pérez with other higher priority targets to concentrate on. For his part, Pogba appears much more at ease with life under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after his relationship with José Mourinho hit the rocks.
Bale, Isco, James, Kovacic will play Zidane's hand
A lot depends on Isco, who is a Zidane favourite but has angered both the board and his teammates in his reaction to being dropped by Santiago Solari. Having rarely been an automatic first choice at the Bernabéu the Spain midfielder, who was left out of Luis Enrique’s latest squad, may see his future elsewhere and Real will listen to offers for the 26-year-old. There is also the James Rodríguez situation to resolve: the Colombian and Zidane rarely saw eye to eye before his loan to Bayern Munich and a return seems unlikely, meaning Real will look to coin at least 50 million euros for the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner.
Up front, Pérez’s obsession is Kylian Mbappé, but Zidane’s chief target is Eden Hazard, not least because the pursuit of the France international at this stage will be extremely difficult and require a world record fee to pull off. Hazard is entering the final year of his contract and will cost around a third of what Mbappé would set Madrid back and both the midfielder and Zidane are already keen on working together. Pérez seems to have gone off the idea of trying to attract Neymar to Madrid, partly due to the cost and partly due to the perceived disinterest of Real fans towards signing the Brazilian.
Zidane would prefer just one attacking player to join but there may be room for more if Gareth Bale is made available for sale. Zidane has faith in Vinicius and Marco Asensio but Mariano is likely to be moved on again this summer, either on loan or a permanent deal.
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